#1: Elite 8 in 1996 – Mississippi State 73 vs. Cincinnati 63.
After beating UConn in the Sweet 16, MSU faced #2 seed Cincinnati in the Elite 8.
Bob Huggins had built Cincinnati into a legitimate contender in his 7th year as head coach. They were in their 5th consecutive NCAA Tournament which included the 1992 Final Four and 1993 Elite 8. This Bearcats team was led by 2nd team All-American (1st team in ’97) forward Danny Fortson.
The big three for State – Erick Dampier, Darryl Wilson and Dontae Jones carried MSU to this point, but some role players were able to step up in this game to get the Dawgs to the Final Four.
Like some of the other big wins during the ’96 run, Mississippi State got out to an early lead with a hot start. But coming out of halftime Cincy made a run to cut the lead to three, and Dampier got his fourth foul with 11 minutes to go. That’s when freshman Tyrone Washington came in to bang around with Fortson.
Washington averaged 1.8 PPG during the regular season, but he managed seven with four rebounds and kept the Bearcats from taking over while Dampier was on the bench. State eventually tore the game open behind Jones’ 23 points and won by 10.
This game makes it to #1 because it got MSU farther than they’ve ever gotten: The Final Four. The hot streak ran out against Syracuse but it was a magical run.